This is intended to be a supplemental to “Is teaching the pre-tribulation rapture heretical? [1 Corinthians 15; Matthew 24]”. I would encourage you to read the primary article as well.
I don’t believe it was Paul’s intent to give a full accounting of the events of Christ’s return when he wrote the letters to the Thessalonians. His purpose was to comfort those he was writing to in two areas (I am referring specifically to those passages concerning Christ’s second coming):
- they thought they missed the gathering and were left behind [2 Thessalonians]
- they wanted to know about their friends who had passed on before them [1 Thessalonians]
Paul reassures them that they did not miss Christ’s coming by telling them what would happen first. He says that day will not come until “the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,”.
“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, [2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 NASB]
And he also says their friends who have passed on before them would be with Christ when He does come.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. [1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 NASB]
So, when Paul stops writing about that event at that point, I think it has appeared to some that he is leaving Jesus in the clouds and they are inclined to make a separate event out of it. And, as I said before, calling it something Scripture never does contributes to this way of thinking. Scripture calls it the gathering not the rapture. For a more detailed explanation and a biblical definition of the rapture see the original article entitled “Is teaching the pre-tribulation rapture heretical? [1 Corinthians 15; Matthew 24]”.
Scripture is the standard by which we interpret and judge, but let us also consider some human reasoning on the matter as well.
Returning to the clouds/air of the earth is considered returning to the earth
What if you were flying here in a spaceship and set it in orbit around the earth. Suppose someone contacted you wanting to know where you were? What would you tell them? Would you tell them that you were in the air, to which they would probably reply “What air? Where?” or would you tell them you were at earth?
Would those who will be raptured say Christ didn’t return to the earth?
Suppose we’ll get a chance to ask those who were gathered/raptured at the time of Christ’s return whether He came back to the earth for them or not. What do you think they would say? My answer would be a resounding “YES!”. What I wouldn’t say is, “No… He only came back to the clouds” because there is no reason to make that distinction.
Finally, consider this most basic of all logic: Jesus has to pass through the clouds before He reaches the earth!
See the original article “Is teaching a pre-tribulation rapture heretical? [1 Corinthians 15; Matthew 24]”.